The creative force of a worker exodus

As record numbers of American workers quit, many take jobs that offer more opportunity to innovate. The healthy churn has helped raise productivity and could dampen inflation.

Construction workers erect a home in Allen, Texas.

Americans are quitting their workplaces at a record pace – 4.3 million in August – which may be one of the most unexpected shifts as the pandemic eases. Yet it may also be one of the most promising for the U.S. economy.

Many of these “quits” are people who simply seek more pay or less stress. Yet others want to use and grow their skills with employers who – again, because of the pandemic – need the intangible capital of worker creativity to be resilient in a disrupted economy.

The result so far is another unexpected change. The U.S. productivity rate rose more than 2% so far in 2021 after years of mediocre growth, signaling a burst of innovation. More restaurants, for example, are rapidly digitizing the task of taking food orders. After a year of working remotely, employees find their offices operate with faster decision-making and less hierarchy.

In addition, the higher productivity might help dampen concerns about inflation. While wages have risen sharply in the new competition for workers, many employers may also be able to provide better and cheaper services and products – the definition of productivity – thus possibly keeping a check on a general rise in prices.

Will this current virtuous cycle between workers and businesses be sustainable?

“While optimism is warranted, exuberance is not,” states a paper by the World Economic Forum. “On the other hand, business leaders should be exuberant because their instinct is to make the most from [a crisis] and innovate.”

At the least, the United States could be going through one of its most creative periods. And it is not alone, based on a ranking of the world’s economies on innovation capacity and output.

The latest Global Innovation Index, issued in September, found “that new ideas are critical for overcoming the pandemic and for ensuring post-pandemic economic growth.” Worldwide, a number of key factors for resiliency – scientific output, spending on research, new patents, and venture capital deals – all rose last year during the pandemic, the survey found.

While many countries are still suffering from COVID-19, their people can take heart from these latest trends in the most productive economies. The search for greater creativity and innovation – whether by workers or businesses – is a latent force for progress. It doesn’t take a crisis to start that search.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to The creative force of a worker exodus
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today